Stepping out of the Mist

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I lived the first half of my life in a mist. I thought I could see but was blind to the sacred.

At 17 a spiritual awakening turned me into an avid seeker. My ideas about God came from other people and the Bible. I read a chapter every night.

At 27 I experienced a crisis of faith. I sought help from three people—two Episcopal priests, then a spiritual leader at our church. The third request was the charm. After Pat’s prayer I saw a blue pillar of light. I knew the sacred was real, and responded by praying harder and being more active at church. Little else changed. I still longed for a conscious connection with my God-image — a masculine deity who lived in an invisible spiritual realm—but still didn’t have it.

At  37 a new discontent settled in. I saw aspects of myself that were totally different from what others saw. Some were shockingly rebellious, petty, ugly, and ignoble. I kept them to myself and maintained the loving, good-girl social mask I still wore. One night my lack of authenticity had become so painful that I prayed fervently for God to teach me how to really love. Not just pretend. Three months later I experienced a terrifying Kundalini awakening that presaged a new phase of my journey.

During the 1980’s, I suffered a classic spiritual Dark Night of the Soul. Outwardly, I was fine. I attended graduate school, earned my doctorate, taught at our local university, was president of the PTA at my son’s junior high school, helped my daughter advertise her campaign for high school student council representative, hosted fun theme parties for our friends, cooked dinners, and listened to my husband’s recounts of his day at work. Except for an occasional tearful, rage-filled, wine-fueled outburst at home, I was the model of perfect woman, wife, and mother. Inside, I was in a hell of torment. Nobody suspected the terrible stress and fierce will-power it took to maintain my façade of normalcy.

I couldn’t accept my shadow. I thought there was something terribly wrong with me. I questioned my beliefs and argued with God, terrified I’d be punished for blasphemy. When a friend invited me to join a Jungian study group, I was too desperate to refuse.  I found Jungian psychology, dreamwork, my unconscious, inner work, the Self, and my soul’s banquet of dreams and myths. This nourishing soul food transformed me into a baby chick who pecked through her shell, stepped out of the mist, and entered a bright new world.

At the age of 47 I learned that myths are symbolic expressions of my soul’s relationship to the spiritual mysteries. While not necessarily true on the outside, myths are always true on the inside. Dreams are personal myths. Following the meaning in my dreams and myths helped me recover my soul.

“The only way we can conceive of God, who remains imperceptible to the senses and to logical proof, is by means of symbols, which it is the chief function of the imaginative mind to interpret.” ~Karen Armstrong  A History of God

“In effect, the life of the imagination is the spiritual life.” ~Jungian analyst Connie Zweig The Holy Longing

Three months after I started recording my dreams we were staying at the beach when I had this dream.

#46: Temple in the Wilderness

I’m walking through woods on a path cut through the earth. I’m seeking a stream I know to be at the bottom. I find it where it spills into the sea and follow it to a mist-shrouded garden. In it are ruins of a Greek temple. One column remains upright. In awe, I kneel to examine some creamy-white flowers. Near the bottom of the plant is a pyramid-shaped arrangement of four glowing, waxy white horses facing the four directions. Surrounding them are white blossoms so beautiful I can hardly take them in. A puppy named Prince playfully grabs my hand, inviting me to follow him. A young woman asks his name and is pleased to hear it. Two other people bring food for the puppy. After seeing a couple walking hand-in-hand through the distant mist I awaken.

This dream moved me profoundly. I won’t go into my associations for the symbols of path, woods, stream, ocean, garden, Greek temple, column, mist, kneeling, white flowers, glowing horses, four directions, the puppy Prince who wants to guide me, the people who feed him, or the couple walking through the mist. But when I awoke I felt as if a cold, hard and fearful place in my heart was softening, melting down, warming. That morning I carried an ice cube to the ocean shore. Kneeling in the sand, I held it in the warm salty water until it melted. My body remembers.

I deepened my study of symbolism and myths. Designed our dining room to remind me of the misty temple in the woods. Started a manuscript which became The Bridge to Wholeness. It opens with a fairy tale that is a metaphor for my spiritual journey.

“…to those of us attuned to the one psyche, no one can fool us into thinking we are just indulging in our ‘imagination’. We have had a taste of the ever-new bubbling fountain of creation…from that point on, for the intoxicated soul thirsty for more of the gods’ nectar, there is only the creative act…the ‘making’ that reveals the artist within each of us.” ~ William Horden

With each imaginative act we make to respect the truths that bubble up from our souls, we become artists who re-myth our lives. It’s never too late to discover the sacredness that awaits us beyond the mist.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched by Schiffer Publishing this October.

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Comments

14 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie,

    Thank you so much for sharing your own spiritual “stepping out of the mist” journey and profound “Prince” dream with us. Hmm, sometimes I wonder if I’m not still in that perilous dark jungle I feel I was born into. Even though these days I do occasionally find myself hand in hand with my effective Shadow and dedicated Animus. Perhaps what’s happening is that I’m “still” acclimatising to this earthly environment which it’s so very different from the place I remember before birth.

    My own spiritual awakening here seems to have been a violent, depressing, chaotic one and yet it’s been glorious too! Perhaps this is the path for all poets and dreamers?! I only know that I’m on this path and will die on this path … and what a long, long path it is! For at times I feel like I’m forever stuck in the Hansel and Gretel story, still picking up and following the breadcrumbs of dreams, synchronicities and connections that fall upon my path.

    Wow! There is so much to unpack from delving into the archetypal relationships we have with ourselves isn’t there?! I hope to write more about this following my summer writing break. In the meantime I’ve been consciously trying to diminish my ego’s power and to my surprise (because I’ve been paying close attention!) it still seems to find new sneaky ways of trying to stay in control. What an epic fight! No wonder life is called the hero/ine’s journey!

    Love and blessings,

    Deborah

    1. Hi Deborah,

      I was struck by “sometimes I wonder if I’m not still in that perilous dark jungle I feel I was born into.” I think we all contain traces of that inner infant/child and the environment into which it was born. Those early memories become part of us, positive and negative alike. I have “hidden” early memories, not quite surfaced, that color some of my days with feeling tones of sadness and loneliness. It feels like they come from my child. I think of her as my Orphan, though I was not a literal orphan. But sometimes I felt like one must feel.

      And Hansel and Gretel still picking up breadcrumbs on the path? Yes, sometimes I feel like that too. More orphan stuff. As you know, that’s an archetypal theme, and as such, part of all of us. Stronger in some than in others, and hopefully less problematic as we grow and mature, but there nonetheless. And deserving of our imaginative attention. How many of us have never felt lost and vulnerable at some point in our lives? Not a one of us, I suspect. There’s healing in that knowledge; it’s nice to know we’re not alone. Cinderella grows up to marry a prince and become a queen. Gretel outwits and kills the witch and she and Hansel return home with a treasure. Thank goodness for imagination. It makes the hard parts of life more bearable.

      Yes, there is much to unpack. Enough to last a lifetime. Enough to be the subject of a thousand-thousand poems, blog posts, fairy tales, and dreams! Enough to heal a hungry, needy ego if it can stay conscious. Have you seen the extraordinary film Pan’s Labyrinth? It’s a fairy tale with the same archetypal Orphan theme, brilliantly updated for our time. I highly recommend it. Dark, as most of Grimm’s fairy tales were, but it nonetheless resonates deeply with the soul.

      Stay conscious. 🙂 Jeanie

      1. Thank you so much Jeanie for the depth and richness of your kind-hearted reply. Deep gratitude. Oh, I have the film “Pan’s Labyrinth” and shall now put it on top of my “to watch” pile, hopefully this weekend! 🙂

  2. Thank you Jeanie for sharing your journey. What a lovely metaphor of steeping out of the mist, into radiant or clearer sunshine! At least that is how it seems to me so forgive me for my projection! We keep those personas so firmly in place for so long we almost believe them until *something* shows us otherwise and we can let go of its grip and take the first of many steps towards living our lives authentically. In a way I’m grateful that I had the doubts I had about just about everything and that reading widened my world view and of myself. I still have diaries from when I was 15 or 16 in which I recorded my private thoughts and observations which helped I think clarify things – for me 🙂

    I also feel so fortunate in discovering Jung and post Jungians. I remember a university assignment comparing Jung & Freud. This was so long ago but it was an essay I put my heart and soul into. I regarded Freud as a master – and I still do in many ways. But researching Jung had me hooked. As did my interest in Buddhism, Sufism, The Dao and so on. Not forgetting for one moment myths and legends all of which point towards the search for the Holy Grail and the necessity of bearing one’s wounds and not becoming a victim of them by the hard work of uncovering the source of them.

    And dreams – how excited I was to find your posts on dreaming. I remember the first one was one in which Susanne van Doorn interviewed you and I felt so at home in that space and further encouraged in my dream world.

    The mists continue to swirl around us with regard to world events and the pandemic. Every now there’s a ray of sunshine that breaks through.

    Thank you again Jeanie, I hope this finds you and family friends and colleagues all well. Love, Susan

    1. Hi Susan,

      No, you read me correctly. I did mean stepping out into the clear light of the sunshine, and have added a word to reflect that.

      I think our egos almost always automatically think we actually ARE the people we show others until some crisis occurs that wakes us up to our shadows. That’s why we get so defensive when someone catches a glimpse of our shadow and calls us on it. I’ve seen people get offended and insulted when someone reacts to their shadow, which was blatantly obvious to everyone but them. Just recently I saw a certain aspect of my own shadow right after it came out. It was a small thing, but so embarrassing to realize how it had looked to others. That’s the beauty, and the pain, of befriending your shadow. Now that I can see it, I don’t think it will be interfering with my relationships any more. Hopefully. If I can stay conscious of it.

      I loved it when you found my posts and started commenting on them. Like you, I was excited to find a sister dreamer and psychological thinker and felt so at home with you.

      I doubt the mists in our country will dispel much until after our presidential election. In fact, I expect them to get thicker and darker. This is a very uncomfortable time for many of us who are appalled at the spectacle of of our collective shadow and deeply embarrassed by it. I know this is a necessary phase of growth for countries as well as individuals, but it sure is painful.

      Thank you for writing Susan. Stay conscious and well. Love, Jeanie

      1. Thank you Jeanie for your lovely reply. Yes the shadows are emerging – we have to really pay attention as never before and note wherever our complexes are clutched. Are we made for these times? Yes I think so –

        1. I do too. I have hope that the majority of us have grown conscious enough to keep us moving in that direction. Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. We may have to go through some more bad times before something of lasting benefit to all can come out of it.

    1. Thanks so much for writing. I’m glad you see my story as a gift of hope. I guess it is a testament to the power of strong intention and perseverance: qualities we all have at our disposal but don’t always use. In my case, the combination of my DNA, personality, and early experiences combined to make my longing for spiritual meaning so intense that I just couldn’t stop trying, no matter how painful it was. Yes, it is a journey, and one well-worth taking. Stay conscious and well. Love, Jeanie

  3. I feel fortunate to find your voice that not only echoes a personal journey, but speaks to the theme(s) traversed throughout my life. Although not a wordsmith like you, I have expressed through the visual arts…(although my written journals are filled…). I am grateful to be connected here with a like-minded “tribe”. I have often felt like I am from another planet…..

    “Artist Way”, Way of Bee-ing”, “Navigating the Soul’s Journey” series and last year’s solo art exhibition “Through Wisdom Waters” are testament to my personal work. And I have been declaring a “sea change” for several years now. I look forward to reading your books as part of my guides. Thank you Jean.

    1. Hahaha, welcome home to our planet, sister alien. 🙂

      Your “Wisdom Waters” paintings revealed your like-minded soul very clearly to me when I saw them at your exhibition at Arts on Douglas. You don’t need to be a wordsmith; you’ve already found and claimed your gift. I can’t wait to see how it interprets and manifests your sea change. I wish I’d been introduced to your art two years ago when I was looking for the right images for The Soul’s Twins. I have no doubt I would have found something perfect. Well, maybe there’ll be another book and more art….. We’ll see.

      Thank you. Stay conscious and well. Love, Jeanie

      1. And I wish I would have been introduced to your books sooner. And in any book clubs you may have facilitated.

        There will be another book AND more art. Thank you.

        From one “siSTAR” to another, time to shine our light upon this planet more than ever…….

        xo Jo

  4. What an incredible journey, Jeanie, and so much had to come from within you as you tried so hard to follow a path that wasn’t the right fit. Step by step, you found trail markers. You are a gifted dreamer and what a blessing that is. What an incredible initiatory dream, including the initiating Prince that awakens you from sleep.

    I was fortunate to meet a Jungian teacher when I was 22 and experimenting with various spiritual and psychological paths, along with psychedelics. Vic and I spent a year doing encounter groups, bioenergetics, and various kinds of meditation in CA, but decided to return to Ithaca for many reasons. Looking back, the essential pull was studying and meditating with Anthony Damiani for 17 years. Anthony led us to Jung, many spiritual traditions, and the Dalai Lama. When Anthony died in 1984, I still had to find my own path and become my own teacher. These quests keep going, richer and deeper and more mysterious.

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